There’s always a struggle inside of us over what we know we should do and be and what we actually do and how we actually are. It’s called cognitive dissonance. That’s when what we think and what we do are in such conflict that it creates discomfort for us. Yeah, I know that feeling all too well.
But, if it’s true that all humans experience this to one degree or another, then why are we so determined to pretend it isn’t real? If it’s such a common phenomenon, why so adamant about pretending it isn’t real? Well, I guess it’s because it’s just so different than how I WANT to see myself.
Look at our Lesson today in Isaiah 58:1-11:
Thus says the LORD: “Cry aloud, spare not, lift up your voice like a trumpet; declare to my people their transgression, to the house of Jacob their sins. Yet they seek me daily, and delight to know my ways, as if they were a nation that did righteousness and did not forsake the ordinance of their God; they ask of me righteous judgments, they delight to draw near to God. ‘Why have we fasted, and thou seest it not? Why have we humbled ourselves, and thou takest no knowledge of it?’ Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure, and oppress all your workers. Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to hit with wicked fist. Fasting like yours this day will not make your voice to be heard on high. Is such the fast that I choose, a day for a man to humble himself? Is it to bow down his head like a rush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Will you call this a fast, and a day acceptable to the LORD?
“Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you, the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, “Here I am.”
“If you take away from the midst of you the yoke, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. And the LORD will guide you continually, and satisfy your desire with good things, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters fail not.
The last section says it all: Take away the yoke and the pointing of the finger and speaking wickedness. Pour yourself out. Satisfy the desire of the afflicted! That’s when you’ll finally be you and when your fasting will be more than just avoiding something! That’s when you’ll actually fast from and for yourself! That’s when the other half of the wisdom of fasting will be real, when you start doing something instead of just stopping doing something!
But how do I take that second step towards action and not just fasting from meat? It all begins by embracing the difference in what you know and what you do. You see if your fasting is just the avoidance of certain foods, you’re only halfway home! The very purpose of the first part of fasting is to train you how to get to the second half! You see, if you learn how to discipline your physical desires, you will then be free to use your life for service to others and not spend most of your time serving yourself!
Today, are you free from the struggle between what you know you should do and what you actually do? Yeah, me neither. So, our daily work is learning how to embrace a life of metania (repentance) by using our will to embrace the disciplines of the Faith to become WHO we really are instead of propping up the delusion of who I’m really not! Being Orthodox on Purpose makes me the real me!